Letting Leadership Go: An Insider's View

By: Kristin Clarke

A retiring CEO reflects on preparing himself and his organization for his upcoming departure.

Leaving an association CEO position is difficult by any standard. It's even tougher when you've served at the same organization for 40 years, like J. Clarke Price, CAE, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Since alerting OSCPA's board in 2010 that he would retire in late 2012, Price has been busy both running the association, which was showcased for excellence in ASAE's book 7 Measures of Success, and helping the board and search team define the skills and traits of the next CEO.

"I've been fairly vocal that they don't want to hire another Clarke Price," he says. "I possessed a mixed bag of skills that worked for a snapshot in time, but as we look to the future, there are different skills on which they will want to focus as they evaluate candidates."

Once a new CEO arrives after an interview process expected to last through the summer, the transition timeline is 60 days—or shorter. "I'll continue to be available to answer questions or provide background after I've left, so the transition period really doesn't seem to be critical," says Price, who declined invitations to remain as a leader in a different capacity.

"Whoever comes into this job is going to have different perspectives and interests than do I, so the best thing for me to do is to let them get oriented and acclimated and then press on," he says. "I'll offer guidance on who [the new CEO should] get to know and particularly [in which] areas we may not be as well established as we should be today."

Price is cautious about his role post-transition because he has seen other associations remain too reliant on the departing CEO.

"Identifying too closely with the departing CEO can actually close doors for the new person rather than open them," he says. "My goal is to be low key. I'll do what the new person wants in order for him or her to get settled, but my objective is to fade into the woodwork. … I'm not going to be saying, 'I have the answer; listen to me.'"

Kristin Clarke is a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.